I finally discovered a problem that I enjoy dealing with as an IT manager. What should I do with about 20 vintage computers with Pentium Pro technology? This year, I have budget approval to purchase new desktops. In this article, I’ll discuss what I’m considering for local backup devices and hard drives and also tell you what I have decided to do with the old PCs.
This article concludes a series from IT manager Mark D. Gonzales who runs a small IT department for Pueblo County emergency services in Pueblo, CO. He is working on a request for proposal (RFP) for a PC rollover. Here’s what he’s discussed so far this week:Part 1: “An IT manager needs your advice on purchasing desktops”Part 2: “An IT manager shops for PCs and considers RAM and CPUs”Part 3: “Are flat-screen monitors worth the price? An IT manager researches new hardware”
Local backup devices
The Iomega 250-MB Zip drive vs. CD-RW
The Iomega 250-MB Zip drive was my initial choice because it is viewed as a backup piece of equipment compared to a CD-RW drive. They are typically less expensive, but I also considered them because they can read and write at a fast rate. But now, I am considering a CD-RW because:

  • The cost of a blank CD-R disk is much less expensive than a blank Zip disk.
  • Most everyone has a CD-ROM drive on his or her machine, while not everyone has a Zip drive.
  • There is more storage space on a CD-RW (650 MB) vs. the new Zip drive that holds 250 MB on its disk.

Our machines will be equipped with CD-ROMs. Not having to buy additional Zip drives will save me quite a bit of change. I really like the Plextor PlexWriter 12X/10X/32X—it offers 12X CD-R write speed and 10X rewrites. I have seen it run firsthand, and let me tell you that this burner can really get the job done fast.

Plextor has a new technology that they refer to as BURN-ProofÔ technology. This new technology reduces buffer underrun errors, which means that it is not as likely to mess up blank CDs when you’re recording. I also like the included software, Easy CD Creator, which is an intuitive application that anyone can learn in just a few minutes.

DVD-ROM vs. everything else
I would love to purchase new DVD-ROM (Digital Versatile Disk-Read Only Memory) drives instead of Zip or CD-RW drives to use as local data backup devices. DVD-ROM drives can read DVD video disks, DVD-ROM, and your existing CD-ROM disks. The DVD format can store 4.7 GB of data on a disk. This would be about the same as using seven or more CD-ROM disks.

In the TechRepublic article “Are you ready for DVD-ROM?” Brian Posey explained the advantages this way, “…you could use a single DVD-ROM drive to run software or play your favorite CD…. In addition, DVD format allows you to mix data, audio, and video tracks on a single disc and use them together for true interactivity.”

The reality of DVD is that for now, it is for reading data only, and it can’t read CD-R disks. I should also mention that native DVD support is not available on the Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 operating system. If you’re a Win NT shop, you should know that support for DVD will first arrive with the release of Microsoft Windows 2000. So I plan to stick with the CD-RW.

The hard drive
This is a simple one to research. I am going to require a brand name—perhaps Western Digital or Seagate. It will need to run at least 7200 rpm, and it is at least 20 GB in size. Hard drive prices these days are pretty reasonable, and the competition between vendors is fierce. I don’t think I’ll find it very difficult to get a decent hard drive for a good price.

Recycling the old stuff
I’ve come to a conclusion about my original question—what to do with the old stuff. I’ve decided not to decide! I’ll keep a few of the old PCs for backup units, but I’ll retire the other units to our main computer department. A few other departments are still using 486 machines, so a Pentium Pro will be an upgrade for them. The distribution of our old PCs is a political nightmare that I don’t want to be a part of. I’ll let someone else play Santa Claus and deliver them.

Thanks and stay tuned
Thank you to all the TechRepublic members who have responded to this series of articles with their suggestions and advice. Your comments have been very helpful as I develop my RFP, which I will share with you in a future article.
Help Mark make decisions for his PC rollover. What hardware and vendors do you recommend? Can he negotiate a good price with a purchase of just 20 PCs? Post a comment or send a letter.